I take a lot of photos when I teach art. I think this is partly because I've been a blogger since 2005, and photos have been a helpful way to tell a story. I enjoy the pairing of words with just the right image. Perhaps it even goes back further to my photojournalism classes in college.
When I first started teaching every month or so I could turn my photos of my students' art into a local grocery store and they would pick a few they liked to blow up as decoration on their store windows. I got in the habit of taking photos consistently.
Both in school, in art therapy and in summer camps, photos are a way to document what students are learning and participating in. It gives donors a sense of why they would want to give to the Edmond Fine Arts Institute and it gives potential students and their parents a sense of what goes on in our classes.
Time and time again I will have a student ask me, "Why are you taking a picture of my art?" Or, "Why do you take so many photos?"
Earlier this week I was observing another teacher who does what I do in a different elementary school. I found myself pulling out my camera and taking a photo of the strips of painted paper we cut up.
"You're always so good about taking photos," my fellow art teacher said.
It was hearing her say it, and realizing that it isn't something she does, that finally made me stop and consider what is at the core of all of this art photography.
And here is what I think it is. I am an art enthusiast. Or here is another possible word to describe me: I am an aesthete.
Apparently the average person could see this collaged art of a giraffe-icorn shooting lasers out of its eyes and move right along. I however am stopped in my tracks. So often, I say to a student, "Are you kidding me?! Let me get a picture of that!"
Sometimes it is the creativity that stuns me.
Sometimes it is the way the art supplies are arranged. Even the messy mats with their random marks and spills and art overflow draw me in on many occasions.
Sometimes it is the use of colour or the way they used the art medium we were focusing on.
Sometimes it is the synchronicity of the art matching their own clothes or, in this case, their own hair.
Sometimes it is the uniqueness of each individual piece of art that can only be truly appreciated when they are all seen together.
It certainly doesn't have to be my own students' art either. The photo above is an art display I found in one of the halls at the school I teach in. This one puts a lump in my throat.
I've never considered how unique it makes me that art puts lumps in my throat. Lumps in my throat and tears in my eyes and it makes my chest tighten as if my heart is trying to burst through it.
It is rare that even my own students get my intense passion for their art. I once had a girl ask me, "Mrs. Steward, do you just say a bunch of nice things to make us feel good?" Because surely no one could be this into art. Especially mediocre elementary art. But I am and many times I can't see the mediocre-ness.
Sometimes it is the reoccurring themes. The passion for one subject matter and the ability to replicate it in so many differing ways. Like this girl who draws dragons or the boy that draws FNAF (Five Nights At Freddy's) characters.
Sometimes it's the hidden story behind the art that I get lucky enough to get to hear. Or the perseverance to stick with a piece on beyond the point of "I can't draw" and "this looks bad."
I have read through two of the 700 books so far and am halfway through a third, and I keep hearing about the role of art critic. These are the people who talk about art for a living, and I just keep thinking Art Critic sounds so negative, but I do have an affinity for talking about all kinds of art and being drawn to some over others. What I haven't spent much time doing is writing about why. And it just sounds so enjoyable. I wonder if all of these photos have been my scratching at the surface, desiring to put words together to explain and chronicle the art that moves me.
I just didn't know it was a thing. I just never saw it as a viable option. I want to see more of this out of me. See if I can loosen up my language as I attempt to write about and dig deeper into more particular territory of solitary art pieces or solitary artists. A definite challenge as I see nearly 500 students a week, not to mention the other art I am exposed to weekly. But I think it is a skill worth developing...to pull out the one from the many and feel the pleasure of it for myself and ask myself why.
What an odd thing to be passionate about, and yet just last week I was telling a fellow artist how I couldn't explain why that dark blue next to that light blue makes me feel as though I could die happy. And he didn't respond with an equal intense gushing agreement, so I know it isn't evident to everyone, this thing I see in art.
Who dies happy over blues? But I feel the blues in my body...and just now at the thought of it, the lump in my throat returns.